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Spaghetti alla puttanesca: history and traditional recipe of olive and caper pasta

Spaghetti alla puttanesca: history and traditional recipe of olive and caper pasta


Extra virgin olive oil

The pasta alla puttanesca is a delicious first course of the Italian gastronomic traditionborn between Napoli e Ischia at the beginning of the last century, where it is better known as “aulive and chiapparielli“. It’s about a quick and easy recipe based on spaghetti, tomato sauce, olives and capers: a few minutes and pleasure is guaranteed, as the chef shows us Raffaele Cardilloborn in 1950, owner of the Avvocato’s restaurant. A lot of experience for a career not as long as one might imagine: for 25 years the chef was a successful lawyer in Naples (hence the name of the restaurant). In the 2000 he decides to leave the profession he studied for and to devote himself to his own dream, to his greatest passion: cooking for others. Let’s see how he prepares spaghetti with olives and capers, typical of Neapolitan cuisine.

The origins of the puttanesca sauce and why it is called that

Although the “official” name is “puttanesca”, in the Neapolitan capital this sauce is mostly called “aulive and chiapparielli“or simply”olives and capers“. The unique flavor of the spaghetti alla puttanesca is given by the flavor of capers and olives of Gaeta oh you Itri, two cities in the province of Latina. Precisely for this reason in the Lazio more than one appropriates the invention of the recipe. There is no official evidence about it but there is indeed one “Lazio variant” to this dish: the addition of salted anchovies makes puttanesca cross the border. The traditional version of Campania includes tomatoes, black olives, capers, garlic and chilli pepper to taste; with the addition of salted anchovies we magically find ourselves in Lazio even if the name remains unchanged.

However, the Latina version should only be a variation of the Campania recipe, given by the common origins of the territory (once Latina was in Campania). On the contrary, it is almost certain that it is born in Ischia in the 50s. The story takes us to a restaurant on the Green Island that, despite everything, welcomes guests who are friends of the chef. Unfortunately, however, there is very little left in the pantry: a little tomato, a few olives, canned capers. The cook warns the customers but they calmly reassure him by saying that it is enough “any whore“and that have no pretensions. The chef goes back to the kitchen and scrapes together the ingredients advanced: that’s enough to create a messenger which would then enter the history of Italian cuisine.

According to the American food writer and popularizer Arthur Schwartzinstead, the term “puttanesca” would derive from a brothel in the Spanish Quarters “who used to refresh his guests with this dish, taking advantage of its speed and ease of preparation”. The author of “Naples at table”, a sort of gastronomic guide for Americans that covers the whole of Campania, also hypothesizes a “reference to house girls undergarments who, in order to attract and entice the customer’s eye, probably wore all kinds of underwear, in bright colors and full of promising transparencies “. many colors of this clothing they would meet again in the sauce of the same name: the green of the parsley, the red of the tomatoes, the dark purple of the olives, the gray-green of the capers, the garnet hue of the chillies. Others argue that the origin of the name is to be attributed to the fantasy of a girl of life, Yvette the French, which was inspired by its Provençal origins. Yvette was probably not only gifted with imagination, but also with a sense of humor and a sense of humorsomewhat caustic ironywhich perhaps he used to celebrate, through the name of this dish, the oldest profession in the world “.

How to prepare spaghetti alla puttanesca

Heat the oil in a pan with a clove of garlic cut in half 1: eliminates the central filament, called allicin, to obtain a more digestible garlic. Remove the garlic as soon as it has browned.

Add the peeled tomatoes, the desalted capers, the chilli, a part of chopped olives and cook and simmer for a couple of minutes 2.

Boil the water for the pasta with a pinch of salt and add a ladle of cooking water 3: the sauce must cook for about 7 minutes in total.

Meanwhile, cut the cherry tomatoes into small pieces and add them to the sauce. Also chop the parsley and the rest of the olives 4.

Cook the spaghetti in boiling water with a little salt 5.

Drain the spaghetti al dente and pour them into the pan with the sauce; add the rest of the olives, the parsley 6.

Whisk over high heat: it is in this phase that the pasta releases starch, giving the right creaminess to the dish 7.

Help yourself with a ladle and a kitchen fork to pick up the right amount of pasta to serve 8.

Distribute the spaghetti alla puttanesca on individual plates and serve immediately 9.


With the addition fresh chili the puttanesca sauce will give a spicy note to the dish.

It is advisable add a little salt to the cooking water of spaghetti, as capers are already present in the preparation which give the right flavor to the sauce.

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